The Value of Mindfulness to the Startup Entrepreneur

In reflecting on my initial introduction to the construct of mindfulness, I remember the efficiency in thought I had in recognizing its value related to formalized organizations. In this sense, mindfulness connected with me for it provided practical utility in the art of reflection and human connection. It enriched my relation to self and others in a way that was meaningful, providing tangible value with measurable organizational impact. Specifically, mindfulness connected with the theory of emotional intelligence and made it real. It captured the organizational benefit of reflection, non-judgmental experiences, human connection, and awareness beyond the individual.

Possessing a strong desire to transfer and leverage mindfulness beyond mature organizations, I set a course to consider concrete ways that mindfulness, as a construct, could yield measurable benefit to the entrepreneur. In this pursuit, the initial quest consisted of recognizing the state of being, and discovering “space” and time in which mindfulness could be employed. After several forced attempts, and some frustration, my initial conclusion was that no such “space” existed: there was no real way that mindfulness could be of any practical benefit to the startup entrepreneur. Emma Martin was right on target commenting that “[p]eople talk of entrepreneurship and talk of mindfulness but rarely in the same conversation.”

Yet, the more I reflected, the more enlightened I became. I came to understand that the absence of mindfulness would indeed hinder my personal and entrepreneurial business growth. That there would be missed opportunities to connect with self as well as internal and external stakeholders. That my sense of purpose and my openness to understanding the needs of my community were at-risk. To understand this paradox, one must truly embrace the holistic notion of what mindfulness entails for in popular business literature and practice, there is a tendency to “cherry-pick” elements of the construct. Mindfulness is a condition in which we learn to connect with ourselves as well as others. In practice, one who is mindful is able to develop and nurture relationships, observe real-time moments and events while suspending judgement, build trust, and remain open to interpersonal moments of collaboration and coordination.

When I came to understand the value and holistic notion of mindfulness as an entrepreneur, the next step became similar to my previous experience, which was to identify the measurable behaviors that underlie mindfulness. This meant knowing the short-term value behaviors in areas such as capturing customer voice, having an expanded perspective toward continuous improvement, and enhancing team communication. This meant understanding the long-term value behaviors related to scaling operations and organizational structure, coordinating process efforts with internal and external value chain partners, and building a sustainable culture. Robert Stenberg provided a first-step toward a measurable framework that best captures the holistic notion of mindfulness, which is applicable to the entrepreneur just as much as it is to the organizational practitioner:

·       Openness to novelty

·       Alertness to distinction

·       Sensitive to different contexts

·       Awareness of multiple perspectives

·       Orientation in the present

Is this not central to our aims, indeed our role, as entrepreneurs?!

Thus, the entrepreneurial question as it relates to mindfulness is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. As entrepreneurs, core to our purpose is the novel approach in which we develop product and services. This spurs innovation and the search for blue ocean. We become keenly aware of the need to distinguish ourselves and the companies we start. We understand the impact and value of context, recognizing the uniqueness of culture, human needs, and environments. Further, as entrepreneurs, we are keenly aware that as important as our perspectives, these perspectives are not the sole criterion of judgment. Indeed, our own judgments are often subordinate to the perspectives and judgments of our customers, employees, and suppliers. Finally, key to our strategic planning and business goals and objectives, is our attention and ability to orient ourselves in the present. To reflect on moments of success and understand what it means while also assessing performance gaps and shortfalls, knowing we have to get better.

This mindful entrepreneur’s approach is more than just a post action reflection guide. The mindful entrepreneur understands the value of learning in the moment and adapting to environmental cues. The mindful entrepreneur builds and nourishes internal and external relationships. Finally, the mindful entrepreneur is acutely aware of how her business connects and provides value to society – above and beyond profit.

This is the true value and meaning of being a Mindful Entrepreneur.

Dr. George Taylor III, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

@drgntiii – Twitter

@entorgcorp – Twitter